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Saracens forced to cancel pre-season fixture against Doncaster Knights with 34 players unavailable

Ben Coles
·2-min read
Saracens walk from the changing rooms to the pitch during the Trailfinders Challenge Cup match between Ealing Trailfinders and Saracens at the Trailfinders Sports Club - GETTY IMAGES
Saracens walk from the changing rooms to the pitch during the Trailfinders Challenge Cup match between Ealing Trailfinders and Saracens at the Trailfinders Sports Club - GETTY IMAGES

Saracens have been forced to cancel their Trailfinders Challenge Cup pre-season fixture this weekend against Doncaster Knights due to having 34 players unavailable through a combination of injury, suspension and Covid-19 isolation.

Two academy players at the club have tested positive for Covid-19 this week, with a further 16 members of the squad having to isolate due to contact tracing.

"The club did everything it could in its attempts to name a 23, but two additional players being contacted to isolate on Thursday meant this was not possible," read a Saracens statement.

As a result of the cancellation, Doncaster will be awarded four points while Saracens will receive two.

Saracens lost the opening fixture of the pre-season competition to Ealing Trailfinders 27-26, with Billy Vunipola starting at No 8 for the relegated Premiership club.

Telegraph Sport understands that Vunipola, Elliot Daly and Jamie George were all set to play against Doncaster, which now means that Owen Farrell, Daly, Maro Itoje and George will go into the Six Nations against Scotland having not played any rugby since the Autumn Nations Cup final against France at the start of December. Mako Vunipola has not played since England's win over Wales on November 28.

Mark McCall, the Saracens director of rugby, hinted after the defeat at Ealing that Billy Vunipola needed as many minutes on the field as possible in order to peak for the Six Nations.

“All our internationals have a specific pre-season programme to peak for the Six Nations and Billy's includes playing time as that is when he is at his best and what he likes the most and what benefits him the most," McCall said at the time.

Saracens have two matches of the pre-season tournament remaining, at home to Ealing on February 6 and again the following week against Doncaster, as they continue their preparations ahead of the start of the Championship season on March 6.

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